While the current pandemic has certainly changed the way Lutheran Settlement House provides services, its overall mission of serving the community remains the same, evidenced by its latest initiative: community take-out meals.
Prior to COVID-19, the nonprofit on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown hosted in-person meals, a staple in its Hungry to Healthy program over the last four years.
The missing meals did not go unnoticed.
“Our ‘take-out’ style community meals started last month in response to feedback from senior center members and other community members about missing our pre-COVID community meals,” said Meg Finley, senior services and nutrition director at LSH.
“The meal includes an appetizer, main dish and dessert with reheating instructions. We offer a variety of dishes to accommodate food allergies and diets, including meat and vegan options of the main dish.”
“Before COVID, we loved having so many different people from our community dining together in our building. That hasn’t been able to happen over the past year, but we’re excited to start the take-out meals,” added David Chiles, executive director at LSH. “This has been such a hard and isolating time, and we’re hoping these special meals will lift people’s spirits.”
The meals are available to anyone.
“I think we can all relate to having times when we’re exhausted and don’t want to cook, or when we just want to try something new for a treat,” Chiles said. “The idea behind our community meals is to bring people from all parts of our community together to have a special and fun dining experience each month.”
LSH makes food go a long way, but it wouldn’t be possible without funding.
The initiative is supported by donations, the most important being the actual food.
“The most important donation, of course, is the incredible food that is offered each month from one of our generous Fishtown restaurants,” Chiles said. “We’re humbled by their willingness to give, particularly knowing how difficult this time has been for restaurants and their workers.”
Repeat supporters have jumped on board for the latest initiative.
“Good Spoon Soupery and Rivers Casino both have sponsored community meals prior to COVID and have generously and enthusiastically offered to sponsor the revamping of this new COVID-friendly version of the community meals,” Finely said. “Last month, Good Spoon Soupery donated a variety of soups, pasta, salad and dessert and next month Rivers Casino will be donating the food and volunteering during the distribution.”
Sponsors can also volunteer to prepare meals on site with staff, pack and distribute meals, and cover the costs of catering.
The recent initiative is just one way the nonprofit continues to serve the community around it. LSH still delivers meals, pantry food and fresh produce to its most vulnerable seniors in the River Wards, and seniors can pick up food.
Anyone who needs help can stop by Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Although COVID may have changed how LSH operated, it hasn’t stopped how many people it impacts.
“We always have a variety of canned and boxed food, meats and dairy, and fresh produce so people can make healthy meals for themselves and their families,” Chiles said. “In total, since COVID hit, we’ve been serving approximately 180 people per week and giving out 5,000 pounds of food per week.”
Next up on the menu for LSH is its spring campaign, Powerful Together: A Campaign for Food, Housing and Education.
“For three weeks in May, we will highlight the voices of our clients, the ways we have helped our most vulnerable community members address their basic needs, and the incredible individuals and businesses whose donations have sustained and expanded our work,” said Erica Zaveloff, director of development and communications at LSH.
In addition to monthly sponsors for the community meals, LSH looks to larger funding to support such initiatives.
“We need the help of our neighbors and community to meet an ambitious $75,000 goal to continue to provide such critical services in the year ahead.”
And, while staff are eager to get back to physically gathering with the community together for meals, they’re committed to continuing to serve the community in new ways.
“We plan to keep the community meals going in any way that we can While we hope to be able to host a traditional pre-COVID version of the community meal where folks can gather and eat together to build that sense of community, we will continue doing the ‘take-out’ community meal until it is safe for us to host our neighbors again.” ••
Restaurants and businesses that are interested in sponsoring a community meal, or partnering with Lutheran Settlement House through a donation or volunteerism, should contact Erica Zaveloff, director of development and communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 215-426-8610, Ext. 1218.
For more details on supporting the spring campaign, follow LutheranSettlementHouse on Facebook and lshphilly on Instagram.